THIS BLOG IS NO LONGER OPERATIONAL. PLEASE ENJOY WHAT IS HERE, AND DO LEAVE A COMMENT IF YOU WISH. NORTH CAROLINA'S NEW POET LAUREATE IS CATHY SMITH BOWERS. SHE WILL SOON HAVE HER OWN WEBSITE THROUGH THE NORTH CAROLINA ARTS COUNCIL SITE. I WILL BE SHIFTING MY ATTENTION TO HERE, WHERE I AM, (SEE SIDEBAR)USING IT TO DRAW ATTENTION TO WRITERS WHOSE WORK DESERVES ATTENTION. I INVITE YOU TO VISIT ME THERE. For a video of the installation ceremony, please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xAk6fOzaNE.
Go to http://www.yourdailypoem.com/, managed with finesse by Jayne Jaudon Ferrer, who says, "Our intent is to make visitors to Your Daily Poem aware of the joy and diversity of poetry."
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Sebastian Matthews: A Poem on the 50th Day of Barack Obama's Presidency
(Asheville WordFest organizers Laura Hope-Gill and Sebastian Matthews are bringing together poets from a variety of traditions. Photo by Anne Fitten Glenn. More about Wordfest 2009 will appear on this blog next month.)
Sebastian Matthews read this poem at the Inauguration Day celebration at UNC-A on the evening of January 20. After a glut of Inauguration Day poems filling cyberspace, I decided to wait to post this one on the 50th day of Obama's presidency.
In a Time Before Cell Phones
In a time before cell phones we hiked to mountaintops unadorned with cell towers
and never once thought to check our emails or text a friend “What a view!”
We moved along city streets freely, arms loose at our sides, fingers splayed, gazing out
at the newly powerwashed world in wonder not gliding on the mind’s traveling sidewalk
or leaving desperate messages to old friends in faraway places. In a time before cell phones,
grips free, we’d loft avocados and grapefruit stallside and pet old cats as they yawned in Spanish
on the democratic stoop, and meet by coincidence, embracing and kissing in the tired dust of public garages
while reciting random Whitman, or at cafes with long bars dimpled with invisible grief
as Piaf or Hank Williams croon out of radios. In a time before cell phones we had to shout out
or turn to a stranger for the time, or simply remain rooted in our spots as the singing moment
ran its fierce course over our stippled skin. We could only call for help and those cries, often,
were left unheard. In the time before cell phones we were identified by our broadcasting voices’
maladjusted gait and secret handshakes changing daily, no t-shirts to announce our affinities.
When we crashed our automobiles we waited for roadside assistance and lost our way stepping off
the curb, and fell into reversible comas while waiting out ringtones. At public performances
and in the classroom or waiting in line for food, we slept soundly in the dead spaces—in the dark
of day, leaning against each other for warmth or affection and woke to the teacher’s voice,
inconvenient lover’s, light spattering window screens or someone saying “Next in line, please”
and we knew that meant us. In the time before a time before cell phones, films were shown in large halls
with hatted men and bejeweled women smoking in the dark, alone together, and the movie came to us in a cone
of light laced in dust. We came in whenever we wanted, sure we’d get around to the next scene of our lives,
and departed hopeful that whoever just called in our empty room of memory would surely call back.
I've lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina since 1968, though I'm a native of SW Georgia. My paternal grandmother was born in the Blue Ridge, and I grew up wanting to live here. Where I am.
I've published five collections of poetry, the most recent 4 being with LSU Press, and have published poetry in magazines ranging from The Atlantic Monthly to Appalachian Heritage. But I also hike, bang pots and pans around in my kitchen, and love several dogs who leave fur all over my carpets. I write poetry because it's my way of singing back to the world both within and without.